After three years with the Phoenix Mercury, restricted free agent Ketia Swanier appears headed to the Atlanta Dream. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
Multiple sources confirm that the Atlanta Dream have made an offer to restricted free agent Ketia Swanier and that the Phoenix Mercury will not match.
The rumored terms of the deal are 2 years, $70,000, though it's not yet clear when exactly the deal will become official.
With Swanier likely departing and having already traded three-year starter Temeka Johnson, the Mercury are expected to retain Alexis Gray-Lawson who is a "reserved" free agent, meaning she is only allowed to negotiate with the Mercury.
After losing Shalee Lehning to retirement, the signing would make sense for the Dream if indeed the Mercury don't match: Swanier's speed and ability to defend are a natural fit behind point guard Lindsey Harding, though obviously a complete 180 from what Lehning offered the team. However, Swanier is coming off one of the least productive years of career, suggesting that the Mercury were bound to consider making some sort of change regardless of anything else that happened.
Gray-Lawson gained favor over the course of her first WNBA season despite erratic minutes and has shown some promise, statistically speaking, relative to Swanier - although a well below average 0.58 valuable contributions ratio that suggests she doesn't offer many quality minutes to a team, the Cal grad showed brief flashes of potential as a scorer that might explain her fit with the Mercury.
Gray-Lawson had a significantly better true shooting percentage of 54.6% and a 3-point percentage of 35% than Swanier, consistent with her reputation as a scorer coming out of Cal. Perhaps more surprising to those who chose not to draft her in 2010, Gray-Lawson was the more efficient ball handler in similar minutes with a pure point rating of 0.75 compared to Swanier's -1.39.
Those numbers are all based on an extremely small sample size, of course, as Gray-Lawson only played 11.4 minutes per game last season. Still, Gray-Lawson certainly has a shot at earning more minutes in her second season given the void currently on the roster and on a team with Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor capable of handling the ball, the situation is never as dire as it might be for other teams without someone to fill the "point guard" position in the starting lineup.
Nevertheless, with Gray-Lawson and Andrea Riley - acquired in the deal that sent Johnson to Tulsa - as the lone candidates for lead ball handler, Phoenix is left with players who are still generally more scorers than facilitators and should probably be expected to look for ways to improve that situation.
Click here for more on Swanier's performance last season and her standing relative to other free agents.